Puck of Pook's Hill

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"Tree Song" redirects here. For the John Williams album, see John Williams discography.
First American edition, 1906

'Puck of Pook's Hill' is a fantasy book by Rudyard Kipling,[1] published in 1906, containing a series of short stories set in different periods of English history. It can count both as historical fantasy – since some of the stories told of the past have clear magical elements, and as contemporary fantasy – since it depicts a magical being active and practising his magic in the England of the early 1900s when the book was written.

The stories are all narrated to two children living near Burwash, in the area of Kipling's own house Bateman's, by people magically plucked out of history by the elf Puck, or told by Puck himself. (Puck, who refers to himself as "the oldest Old Thing in England", is better known as a character in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.) The genres of particular stories range from authentic historical novella (A Centurion of the Thirtieth, On the Great Wall) to children's fantasy (Dymchurch Flit). Each story is bracketed by a poem which relates in some manner to the theme or subject of the story.

Donald Mackenzie, who wrote the introduction for the Oxford World's Classics edition[2] of Puck of Pook's Hill in 1987, has described this book as an example of archaeological imagination that, in fragments, delivers a look at the history of England, climaxing with the signing of Magna Carta.

Puck calmly concludes the series of stories: "Weland gave the Sword, The Sword gave the Treasure, and the Treasure gave the Law. It's as natural as an oak growing."

The first edition was illustrated by H. R. Millar. Puck of Pook's Hill was followed four years later by the second volume, Rewards and Fairies.

Stories and poems[edit]

Puck's Song[edit]

A poem which introduces themes from the following stories.

'Weland's Sword'[edit]

A story of Burwash in the 11th century just before the Norman Conquest, told by Puck himself.

A Tree Song[edit]

A poem about English trees but emphasising the symbolic nature of Oak, Ash and Thorn.

'Young Men at the Manor'[edit]

A story which continues the previous one just after the Norman Conquest. It is told by Sir Richard Dalyngridge, a Norman knight who took part in the Conquest and was awarded a Saxon manor.

Sir Richard's Song[edit]

The poem of Sir Richard Dalyngridge and how he became adapted to living in England despite his Norman origins.

Harp Song of the Dane Women[edit]

A lament by the Danish women for their menfolk who leave to go on a viking on the grey sea.

'The Knights of the Joyous Venture'[edit]

Tells of a daring voyage to Africa made by Danes after capturing Sir Richard and his Saxon friend Hugh at sea.

Thorkild's Song[edit]

A song by a Danish seafarer hoping for wind.

'Old Men at Pevensey'[edit]

A continuation of the previous stories with a tale of intrigue set in Pevensey at the beginning of the reign of Henry I, 1100 AD.

The Runes on Weland's Sword[edit]

A poem which summarises the stories in the book to this point.

A Centurion of the Thirtieth[edit]

A poem which comments on how cities, thrones and powers are as transitory as flowers which bloom for a week.

'A Centurion of the Thirtieth'[edit]

A story which introduces a new narrator, a Roman soldier named Parnesius, born and stationed in Britain in the 4th century. He tells how his military career started well because the general Magnus Maximus knew his father.

A British-Roman Song (A.D. 406)[edit]

The song of a Roman Briton serving Rome although he and his forebears have never seen the city.

'On the Great Wall'[edit]

A story of the defence of Hadrian's Wall against the native Picts and Scandinavian raiders.

A Song to Mithras[edit]

A hymn to the god Mithras.

'The Winged Hats'[edit]

A return to Hadrian's Wall and the fate of Magnus Maximus.

A Pict Song[edit]

The song of the Picts explaining how although they have always been defeated by the Romans, they will win in the end.

Hal o' the Draft[edit]

A poem about how prophets are never acknowledged or celebrated in their native village.

'Hal o' the Draft'[edit]

A tale of deception involving the explorer Sebastian Cabot and the privateer Andrew Barton, probably set near the end of the 15th century and told by Sir Harry 'Hal' Dawe.

A Smuggler's Song[edit]

Sung by a smuggler advising people to look the other way when the contraband is run through the town.

The Bee Boy's Song[edit]

A poem which explains how honey bees must be told all the news or else they will cease to produce honey.

'Dymchurch Flit'[edit]

A fairy tale told by Puck (in disguise) and set around the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (about 1540 AD).

A Three Part Song[edit]

A poem which tells of the three main landscapes of Sussex, the Weald, Romney Marsh and the South Downs.

The Fifth River[edit]

How God assigned the four great rivers of the Garden of Eden to men, but Israel was later assigned the secret fifth great river, the River of Gold.

'The Treasure and the Law'[edit]

A story told by a Jewish moneylender named Kadmiel, of money and intrigue leading up to the signing of Magna Carta in 1215. Here we learn the eventual fate of most of the African gold brought back to Pevensey by Sir Richard Dalyngridge.

The Children's Song[edit]

A patriotic prayer to God to teach the children how to live correctly so that their land will prosper.

Original illustrations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rudyard Kipling biography
  2. ^ Puck of Pook's Hill – Introduction, Kipling.org

External links[edit]